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How Strong is the Anti-Terror Coalition
by John Reynolds
14 Nov 2001
While all countries have condemned the attacks on New York and Washington, many governments oppose the US bombing of Afghanistan and warn the US against attacking another country.
How Strong is the “Anti-Terror” Coalition?
“The coalition is broad and deep and strong and committed,” according to President George W. Bush, quoted in the New York Times (10/20/2001.)
He was referring to the “anti-terror” coalition that Great Britain and the US have tried to build since September 11th. However, a brief sampling of world opinion to date shows the coalition is fragile at best. While all countries have condemned the attacks on New York and Washington, many governments oppose the US bombing of Afghanistan and warn the US against attacking another country. Also, many Muslim states face resistance from their populations as a result of the US bombings, which suggests that their future support for or acceptance of US military action is in jeopardy.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf backed the US bombing of Afghanistan and allowed the US the use of three of its air bases. However, he acknowledged that the people of Pakistan are against the bombings and urged the US to “terminate the operation [as soon as possible].” (NYT, 10/16/2001.)
As a result of Musharraf’s support for the US, violent protests of up to 100,000 have erupted throughout the country. Government forces have killed at least four protesters, and many western businesses have been vandalized or destroyed.
Radical religious leaders in Pakistan have called for revolt against General Musharraf and revenge against the US. Maulana Atta-ur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam religious group that trained the Taliban, stated that it was the duty of Pakistan’s Muslims to overthrow Musharraf, and that Muslims should “have open war against Jews, Christians, Israel, America, everyone...the Pakistan nation should seize their nuclear weapons and fire them at America.” (The Guardian, 10/10/ 2001.)
Moderates also condemned the bombings of Afghanistan and predicted the growth of extremist groups in Pakistan. The leader of Pakistan’s Movement for Justice Party, Imran Khan, called the US bombing of Afghan civilians “unjust and unethical” and stated that more civilian casualties will breed “hatred and anger” toward the US. (BBC, 10/15/2001.)
One Pakistani writer, Sabiha Sumar, has stated that although most of the population does not support Osama bin-Laden, it now supports revenge against the US for its killing of innocent Afghan civilians. She also fears that the bombings “may have brought Pakistan to the brink of civil war.” (BBC, 10/15/2001.)
Pakistan has been a base of support for the Taliban, having trained many Taliban leaders in religious schools, and there is evidence this support is increasing. The Boston Globe reported that thousands of Pakistanis have recently joined the Taliban army. (10/19/2001.)
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest supplier of oil and home of Islam’s holiest sites, has condemned the bombings. The Interior Minister stated that “Muslims are being held accountable for [the terrorists] although Islam is innocent.” (NYT 10/25/2001.)
The autocratic Saudi government faces a serious backlash for any signs of support for the US campaign. The Guardian reports that a split has occurred in the Saudi royal family regarding the current bombing crisis, creating a possible window for anti-US leadership. (date)
Clerics in Saudi Arabia are calling for a holy war against the US, and the people are labeling Americans as “terrorists” for killing civilians in Afghanistan. (NYT, 10/19/2001.)
The US has requested lists of passengers flying to the US from Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia has refused. The Saudi Embassy stated that it feared the number of innocent detainees in the US, already in the hundreds, might “quadruple” if the US were supplied with passenger lists. (NYT, 10/18/2001.)
According to the London Times, Tony Blair’s efforts to gain support in Saudi Arabia for US action were “faltering.” (10/20/2001.)
Egypt, a country that receives billions of dollars in aid yearly from the US, has endorsed the bombings. However, the people bitterly oppose them. Anthony Shadid reports in the Boston Globe that anti-American feeling has never been higher in Egypt and is shared by rich and poor alike. Shadid traces the anger to the 1991 Gulf War and the US refusal to lift economic sanctions against Iraq, which to date has killed hundreds of thousands of children.
Several Egyptians indicated that it was US policy and not the people of the US that they hated. One student said, “I like the American people. I want to go to America to study computer science, but I hate American policy in the Middle East and against Afghanistan.”
Turkey, the only member of NATO with a predominantly Muslim population, has offered full support for US action in Afghanistan, but has warned against military intervention in other countries.
According to a BBC report (10/18/2001), the people of Turkey strongly oppose the campaign against Afghanistan.
Iran, an enemy of the Taliban, called US attacks “unacceptable.”
Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, has seen large protests against the bombings and has officially condemned them. President Megawati Sukarnoputri said, “” No individual, group, or government has the right to try to catch terrorist perpetrators by attacking the territory of another country.” (The Guardian, 10/30/2001.)
Indonesia’s Muslim neighbor Malaysia has also condemned the bombings.
China has cautioned the US to avoid civilian deaths and to hit their targets more accurately, perhaps a reference to the US bombing of the Chinese embassy during US military action in Yugoslavia.
Western Europe’s leaders have pledged full support for the US while calling for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. However, there is growing opposition to the war by government officials and the people of Europe.
The German Green party, which shares some power with the majority Social Democratic Party, has called for a halt in the bombing of Afghanistan to allow humanitarian aid workers to deliver food. A Green leader warned that "further bombardment -- carried on without any clear indication of where it will lead -- could endanger the worldwide anti-terror coalition," while another sharply criticized the US use of antipersonnel cluster bombs. (NYT, 10/15/2001.)
British Parliamentarians in the Labor party have called for a stop to the bombings, stating that “the grief and suffering of innocent victims in the USA cannot be answered by the bombing and starvation of equally innocent victims in Afghanistan.” (BBC 10/16/2001.)
The people of Western Europe support using international law instead of launching an attack on the countries where terrorists are based, as did the people in 30 of the 33 countries polled, according to a Gallup International poll.
Large peaceful protests have occurred throughout Western Europe in response to the bombings. Up to 40,000 marched in Germany on October 10, according to CNN, while over 20,000 simultaneously marched in London, according to police estimates. Italy has seen protests of up to 200,000 people, according to the Guardian (10/31/2001.)
Chairwoman Carol Naughton of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament, the group that organized the London peace rally, stated that “killing innocent civilians is not the way to eradicate terrorism - we have to do it through the United Nations and international law." (The Guardian, 10/13/2001.)
Nigel Chamberlain, also of the CND, stated that the bombing was “counter productive and is breaking up the [anti-terror] coalition.” (BBC, 10/13/2001.)